By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Residents and officials have begun updating the Lafayette-Oxford-University community’s in-depth “Vision 2020” long-range plan. Aldermen approved $5,000 as seed money for the process last week.
Vision 2020 involved hundreds of community members deciding priorities for the area’s foreseeable future in areas as diverse as civic enrichment, economic development, education, government, housing, land use and transportation and utilities.
A newly appointed steering committee has already met to consider its grandest successes and those where more focus is needed.
“It was extremely positive; there were a lot of smart people in the room,” Mayor Pat Patterson said.
Ward 3 Alderman Janice Antonow added, “What we’re going to do first is take the 1999 ‘Vision 2020’ plan and literally pull apart all the recommendations that were there. There’s a bunch that the city accomplished, and we need to give ourselves credit.”
One of the most obvious successes, Patterson said, was in transportation. Oxford and the University of Mississippi converted part of the abandoned railroad that bisected them into a biking and walking trail and the rest into a desperately needed north-south corridor – Gertrude Ford Boulevard – that connects Molly Barr Road and Old Taylor Road. Oxford has built miles of additional bike lanes in its Pathways plan and is adding even more this summer, and the city and university are nearly four years into the life of a jointly operated transit system.
While the Toby Tubby Parkway that would have linked Highway 6 West with Highway 314 is apparently off the table, Old Taylor Road’s bridge over Highway 6 is scheduled for four-laning, with roundabouts at both ends. Old Taylor is also slated to be four-laned from Highway 6 to its intersection with Bickerstaff Road as a part of the construction of the new Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi.
Another highlight from the 2020 plan, Patterson said, was historical preservation. Since its adoption as a guiding principle, Oxford has passed historical preservation ordinances, established and kept two historic preservation commissions, seen the transformation of the L.Q.C. Lamar Home into an impressive museum and is well into the restoration of the Burns Belfry Church.
Other successes include the Ford Center for the Performing Arts, the Powerhouse Arts Center, construction of new schools in both Oxford and Lafayette districts, the sale of no-longer-used faculty houses to low-income families and their relocation.
As the 2040 review develops, community members will be urged again to participate.
“That original (plan) was done with a lot of public input, and this one should be, too,” Antonow said.